Catherine Taft

  • Allen Ruppersberg

    BUY ONE TONIGHT, READ IT FOREVER; THE BEST IN WORDS AND PICTURES; YOU ARE THE STORY: With that earnest air of hucksterism indigenous to an earlier time in American history, Allen Ruppersberg spins new narratives from old ones in his bright, sizable 1985 collage Cover Art (Wonder Series)—a pristine composite of pasted-up texts like the above (whether in adlike tag lines rendered with vintage label-maker tape or via disconnected words and numbers torn from paper) and mostly midcentury print images (including a depiction of the pope, one of a monkey wearing a lab coat, and several nature

  • Tomoo Gokita

    With their watery, atmospheric grounds, china-blue hues, and organic yet somehow robotic forms, Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita’s sixteen new canvases mark a striking shift forward in the artist’s style. Whereas the works in his 2007 show at Honor Fraser retained a distinctive figuration—painted black-and-white bodies lifted from lingerie ads, 1970s yearbooks, and porn magazines, and portraits of Mexican wrestlers and geishas, all of which were partially consumed by anxious, repeating brushstrokes—the artist has now loosened his grip on unequivocal source material, allowing a minimal abstraction

  • interviews January 14, 2010

    Rani Singh

    Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular celebrates Smith’s wide-ranging oeuvre and is available this month from Getty Publications. Here, Rani Singh, director of the Harry Smith Archives, discusses the book’s inception and Smith’s significance to the field. On January 28, the Hammer Museum will host a launch party with Patti Smith.

    HARRY SMITH EMPHASIZED seeing the mundane in a creative light and would regularly ask people, “Have you been creative today?” Essentially, his search for synthesizing world cultures was what his artmaking and lifetime achievements were all about.

    Although

  • Neil Beloufa

    Neil Beloufa seems fascinated by the sympathetic vibrations between opposing forces, and his recent solo exhibition at François Ghebaly Gallery (formerly Chung King Project) demonstrated his precise ability to let dichotomies collide. Only twenty-five years old, the French artist has already produced a small but compelling body of work that includes sculpture, video, installation, and conceptual photography, all of which were on view in “Tectonic Plates or the Jurisdiction of Shapes.” As the title suggests, this show—with some pieces adapted or repurposed from earlier sculptures and installations

  • Charley Harper

    As a kind of midcentury anti-Audubon, Charley Harper imaginatively sought to represent the natural world through its most basic shapes, colors, and patterns: that is, through a style the artist called “minimal realism.” The term, though, is a bit of a misnomer. While Harper’s illustrations and paintings from the 1940s to the end of his life in 2007 are undeniably modern designs, they lack both the exaggerated objectivity of realism and the cold authority of Minimalism. Rather, his delightfully idiosyncratic renderings faithfully represent organic processes, but hint at the fluid personalities

  • picks November 19, 2009

    William Powhida

    Insider art-world jokes—as caricature, if not a kind of portraiture—speak volumes about the “contemporary” moment and often end up serving as important social and historical documents as they age. Consider the rich anthology of nineteenth-century Parisian satiric cartoons (those of Honoré Daumier, Henri Meyer, or Paul Iribe), which mock the Salon scene and its establishment. The New York–based artist William Powhida might well be considered today’s Daumier, and this exhibition proves that the art of art-world satire (as a genre? A tradition?) remains a witty and biting form of discourse.

    Like

  • Fred Tomaselli

    The buzz around Fred Tomaselli’s meticulous painting-collage hybrids frequently centers on the work’s more loaded materials—ephedrine, aspirin, saccharine, an assortment of brand-name pharmaceuticals, marijuana, and other psychoactive plants—which Tomaselli assembles into kaleidoscopic patterns and scenes; looking at his pictures, one might infer that “using” a drug as a raw material should constitute or symbolize “being on drugs.” Although he is acutely interested in depicting altered and alternate perceptual experience, Tomaselli has also employed these substances (or rather a simple reference

  • film October 30, 2009

    Magic Man

    IT IS SOMEWHAT COMFORTING to know that in the past one hundred years of film, the major tropes and formulas of the horror genre have changed very little. Its stories still probe our subconscious, feeding off human insecurities; evil creatures or disturbed slashers still threaten otherwise sleepy settings where virtuous characters survive and the bawdy ones are violently eliminated. These shocks and chills, which contemporary audiences have come to expect, were established early on and Paul Wegener’s 1920 telling of the golem legend is a strong specimen. The third film in what was the first horror

  • Yayoi Kusama

    When, in a 1998 interview with Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama observed that while cancer is what people fear, flowers are “what people enjoy visually. . . . Ultimately, they are the same. When they die, they [both] become dust . . .” she may well have been forecasting the essence of her most recent series of large-scale sculptures, “Flowers That Bloom at Midnight,” 2007–2009. Recently exhibited with new canvases and an unrelated sculpture at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills were seven entries to that series from this year, immense blossoms made from fiberglass-reinforced plastic that linger delicately

  • diary August 17, 2009

    High Society

    Aspen, Colorado

    THERE ARE FEW THINGS more scenic than cruising at twenty-five thousand feet over the green and white Rocky Mountains of Colorado’s high country; but as my Bombardier Turboprop approached Aspen’s tiny airstrip last Wednesday, it was the views of the private ranches, man-made lakes, and sprawling vacation homes that caught my eye. Though the picturesque (and hard-to-reach) community is famous for its exclusivity, it has garnered a new reputation as a fund-raising powerhouse, and the three days of events benefiting its own Aspen Art Museum were proof positive. I arrived in town with just enough

  • picks June 16, 2009

    “Video Journeys”

    One of the most striking aspects of video is that it can act as a logical extension of sculpture. Even in the early days of the Sony Porta-Pak, artists explored the television monitor as a revolutionary new form in space––from the simple performative gestures that delineated the limits of both the screen and the body captured on tape (as in Vito Acconci’s Centers, 1971), to more complex installations that rely on close-circuit setups to produce lags in time and space (like Dan Graham’s Time Delay, 1974). Nearly forty years later, the logical connections between video and sculpture are still

  • Erik Frydenborg

    Catherine Taft on Erik Frydenborg

    Successive breakthroughs in the natural sciences gave rise to a system of graphical schema to represent the natural order—whether the planetary orbits around the sun, the life cycle of plants, or the double-helix structure of DNA. Over the years, such representations, as commonplace as they are useful, have been refined and standardized into efficient hybrids of design and illustration for classrooms and textbooks alike. The modular artwork of Los Angeles–based artist Erik Frydenborg’s debut solo exhibition at Bonelli Contemporary dissects these sorts of educational

  • John Williams

    For just over a decade, John Williams has been cleverly employing sculpture as a useful conduit for time-based action. In 1998, the Los Angeles–based artist produced the first objects of his ongoing “Record Projection” series, a group of small, flashy assemblages crafted from colorful, mass-produced plastic forms—drinking straws, dish scrubbers, stick-on bows, hair rollers, and poker visors, for example—attached to vinyl records that, when set atop spinning turntables, become animated instruments in Williams’s expanded cinema–like performances. During these events, Williams randomly selects and

  • Eileen Quinlan

    For an artist who cites accidental elements in her practice, Eileen Quinlan is undeniably fixed on the parameters and the quantifiable conditions of making a photograph. While the images she produces are marked by bleeding colors and the incidental abstraction of common objects, Quinlan in her meticulous experimentations stages her materially driven subject matter with the precision and control of a set designer—even employing the trade secrets of commercial photography, such as smoke machines, filters, and strobe and key lighting. For her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, titled “Downtime,”

  • Lecia Dole-Recio

    Lecia Dole-Recio’s loosely constructivist works on paper and vellum have long demonstrated her deftness at mixing gesture and structure in measured and unpretentious ways. Patterning line and shadow from tactical cuts, cardboard shapes, hand-drawn details, and heavy washes of pastel, fluoresecent, or metallic gouache, the Los Angeles–based artist has cultivated a trademark abstraction that seems poised some- where between the cohesive surfaces of hard-edge painting, the hasty marks of expressionism, and the shifting planes of collage. While Dole-Recio’s fourth solo exhibition at Richard Telles

  • diary January 30, 2009

    Hangar Ons

    Los Angeles

    THE ART-FAIR “SNEAK-PEEK” undoubtedly carries a certain attraction—attempts at backstage access are the subject of a whole body of fair lore. But when I was invited to an early view of Art LA’s installation last Wednesday—twenty-eight hours prior to the third edition of the fair’s opening gala (benefiting MoCA)—my instinct was to delay gratification. If you’re not shopping, what’s the point? By the time Thursday’s preview rolled around, there were plenty of polished displays to browse at the Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar, a new venue that seemed an obvious improvement over last year’s

  • picks November 20, 2008

    “Base:Object"

    Spotting trends in contemporary art is a relatively easy task, yet there is greater difficulty in labeling a “movement” while it is still in the making. One attempt might look something like “Base:Object,” a small, articulate show of recent sculpture curated by Andrea Rosen Gallery’s Cory Nomura. Through the work of Sara Barker, Patrick Hill, Matthew Monahan, William J. O’Brien, and Sterling Ruby, Nomura complicates the conventional purpose and appearance of the pedestal (an idea that isn’t fresh but nevertheless comes across as original here). In these works, the pedestal—that once-reliable

  • picks November 15, 2008

    “After October”

    Playing against the operations and exigencies of the US election season, “After October”—a group show of seven European artists and a collective—is a convincing reconsideration of political art that deploys unexpected forms and their adaptable functions. What is perhaps most striking about this group of sculptures, photographs, collages, videos, and films is the way it visibly eschews the efficacy and economy of propaganda while remaining unmistakably politicized. For example, Andreas Bunte’s complex installation Die Letzten Tage der Gegenwart, 2006–2008—which includes two silent 16-mm films

  • picks October 10, 2008

    John Altoon

    “Advertising Parodies,” 1962–63, John Altoon’s little-known series of ink drawings, makes unsettling but compelling transgressions out of modern conveniences and their marketing. An “ad” for Metro Life Insurance displays a distinguished father and son whose wife and daughter (or mother and sister) lift up their kilts to expose their penises; promising “years of good service,” another one, for Bell Telephone Systems, depicts a repairman hard at work while the lady of the house, in lingerie, brazenly strips behind him. A related group of large pastel drawings free these risqué figures from the

  • film September 21, 2008

    Doom Towns

    LAST YEAR, the CIA reported that if California were to become an independent state, it would have the tenth-largest economy in the world. Despite the state’s steady rise as an important center of production, there still exist a number of severely depressed and abandoned towns scattered just outside the county lines of California’s largest metropolitan areas. These sites—former boomtowns established around specific industries and occupied by laborers—are the subject of Lee Anne Schmitt’s haunting new film, California Company Town. Since 2003, Schmitt has been researching, visiting, and filming